### Undergraduate Math Conference

Saturday, April 16, 2011

#### 2011 Invited Speaker - Dr. Mike Axtell

Biography:

Mike Axtell received a B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse in 1995 and a Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Iowa in 2000. His dissertation was in the area of commutative ring theory and examined an alternate method of factoring in the presence of pesky zero-divisors. From 2000-2008, Mike taught at Wabash College in Indiana, a remarkably unusual school of 900 in west-central Indiana. Since 2008 he has been at the University of St. Thomas (in Minnesota, not the Caribbean). Mike views himself first and foremost as a teacher, though he has been fortunate enough to find a few areas of mathematical research that he finds deeply fascinating. These areas all seem to revolve around zero and zero-divisors (apparently Chuck Norris is not the only person who can divide by zero). He has explored these areas with undergraduates since the summer of 2001. Most notably, Mike has been involved with the Wabash Summer Institute of Mathematics REU for the past 6 summers, including 3 summers as the director. This 'math camp' has been a great experience, and Mike is considering moving the camp further north in summers to come.

Away from the chalkboard, Mike enjoys spending his remaining cartilage in fruitless endeavors like jogging and volleyball.

TITLE: *The Horror and Joy of Zero-divisors*

Talk Abstract:

During the past 10 years or so, the mathematical realms of Graph Theory and Abstract Algebra have begun to work together to study the unusual, and perhaps unfortunate, objects that mathematicians call zero-divisors. These zero-divisors foul up a lot of the algebra we learned from high school and are also somewhat difficult to study. However, the tools of Graph Theory have opened up a whole new approach to studying these interesting objects. This talk focus on some of the early results of this collaboration of two mathematical fields as well as some more recent results discovered by undergraduates.

2010 Undergraduate Math Conference 2008 Undergraduate Math Conference 2007 Undergraduate Math Conference Ayres Hall is home to the UT Department of Mathematics. |

This conference is sponsored by the

University of Tennessee Mathematics Department and

the National Science Foundation.